What does it mean to have a “sense of community”? According to McMillan & Chavis, the definition of the term is:
“a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together”.McMillan, 1976
For me, this is a major motivator to start a community garden. For me, a community garden is about far more than just a sense of community. Today, I would like to discuss what I believe a community garden is able to achieve in any neighborhood.
16 benefits and advantages of a community garden:
- Fresh, affordable veggies for everyone.
- Reduces stress and promotes a sense of well-being.
- Improves fitness.
- Strengthens the community bond and camaraderie.
- Reduces pollution and food transport carbon footprint.
- Promotes food security.
- Teaches the origin of food and provides self-sustaining guidelines.
- Reduces neighborhood waste.
- Improves dietary habits through education.
- Beautifies the neighborhood & instills a sense of pride.
- Provides valuable skills development.
- Promotes social well-being.
- Inspires neighborhood ownership.
- Improves air quality.
- Can reduce crime.
- Provides good, healthy outdoor activity for the whole family.
Before we delve a little deeper into each of the benefits of a community garden, let’s consider what a “community garden” really is.
A community garden can be described as a space where people in a community come together to grow and nurture various fruits, herbs, vegetables, and plants, in general. In most instances, a plot or piece of land is rented or donated to the cause. Often, you will find non-profit organizations, clubs, charities, municipalities, or private landowners creating community gardens and encouraging community involvement.
Now, with the definition out of the way, let’s take a closer look at each of the 16 benefits of a community garden that I have mentioned above. Read on.
16 Ways in Which a Community Garden will be Beneficial to Your Neighborhood
As an avid gardener, I find that I am always promoting gardening. Therefore, people take my praise-singing of community gardens for granted. The reality is that community gardens have been providing real benefits to a number of neighborhoods, not only in the United States, but across the globe. Below are 16 of my favorite reasons why a community garden is good for any neighborhood.
1. Community gardens make affordable, fresh produce available to all.
Creating a community garden is an excellent way to make sure that all community members have access to healthy fresh produce that’s affordable too. Some of your neighbors might not be able to afford and pay the high prices of organic fruits, veggies, and herbs. A community garden with reasonably priced produce can remedy this problem.
2. Contributors enjoy reduced stress and a sense of well-being.
I specifically like to garden because of the stress relief that it offers me. If I am feeling stressed and anxious, or if I am feeling “down”, I potter off into the garden for a few hours. It isn’t long until I am feeling relaxed and at ease again. This can work wonders for community members who have stressful jobs and home lives to deal with. Sometimes a break to do something completely different can have a highly positive impact.
3. Community members have the opportunity to improve their fitness while gardening.
When community members start to work in the garden, they incorporate new exercises into their schedules. These exercises are great for their overall health and fitness. Gardening is jam-packed with tasks that require physical exertion such as lifting, tugging, digging, walking, carrying, pushing, chopping, cutting, and more.
4. Creating a garden brings the community together and makes it stronger.
When a group of people is working together to achieve a common goal, they tend to draw closer. A community garden is a common goal, and the more the team works together to nurture it, the stronger the community will become as a “team”.
5. Reduction of pollution and carbon footprint of food shipping/transport.
Food production, as well as the shipping and transport of food, produces pollution. Many people know that the food waiting for them at the grocery store already comes with a hefty carbon footprint attached, but they don’t know how to get around it.
A community can keep its carbon footprint to a minimum by encouraging members to purchase their fresh produce from the community garden, instead of driving around to purchase food items from grocery stores.
6. Promotion of food security for all members of the community.
If a community takes it upon themselves to grow an extensive range of fruits, vegetables, and herbs to support the entire community, there is little need for the community members to fear a serious food shortage.
Sometimes stocks run low at stores, sometimes disasters such as hurricanes and storms strike, and then access to food becomes difficult. Whatever the case may be, a community garden is nearby, has each community member’s needs in mind, and has stock that is always readily available. That pretty much describes the definition of food security.
7. Teaches children where food comes from and how to be self-sustaining.
Nowadays, children don’t get much exposure to the origin of their food and how it is delivered to their plates. By involving children in a community gardening project, they can make the connection between what they eat and how it needs to be grown, nurtured, and cared for.
By learning about community gardening, children can learn how to create and sustain their own gardens. They can use this knowledge and these skills to support themselves and their families in the future.
8. Reduction of neighborhood waste through composting.
Much of the waste that a neighborhood produces is through packaging used on fresh produce and fresh produce waste such as seeds, peels, etc. When a community garden is properly managed, it will supply fresh produce to the neighborhood, which thus eliminates commercial packaging. Skins and waste from the vegetables, fruits, and herbs can be put back into the garden for composting.
9. Improvement of dietary habits through education.
Lots of people don’t eat healthy because they just don’t know what to eat. A community garden growing fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs promotes healthy eating.
10. Community gardens beautify the neighborhood and instill a sense of pride in members.
A community with thriving gardens dotted around is far more beautiful and alluring than a community with open lots and spaces that seem to attract crime. Communities with gardens tend to have a higher property value and a safer appeal than those without.
11. Community gardening provides valuable skills development.
Get the kids involved in community gardening early on in life, and they could go on to use their gardening skills to boost their careers in the future. It may just spark an interest in landscaping, vegetable farming, horticulture, or similar.
12. Gardening together promotes social well-being by strengthening social connections with neighbors.
Most communities today are somewhat sterile. People travel between work, schools, and home without giving their neighbors a second glance, least of all a wave. In some places, gone are the days where neighbors knew each other and were even friends. A community garden can change that.
By working together in a community garden, neighbors can get to know each other, chat with each other, and become friends while they work on a rewarding project together. This creates a strong social connection, which leads to an overall sense of social well-being.
13. Community gardens inspire neighborhood ownership.
When a community is proud of its neighborhood, you will see a new kind of behavior emerge.
Neighbors will become more caring about one another, people will be more helpful, community members will have more understanding of their impact on the environment – the list goes on. This typically means that community members will be so proud of their neighborhood that they will take extra care of it and ensure that it is always in the best possible condition. Because that’s what you do when you “own” something and are part of something that you care about.
14. More community gardens mean better air quality for the neighborhood.
The bigger the community is, the poorer the air quality most likely is. Humans (through their actions) produce carbon dioxide, and if you don’t have enough trees and plants to help balance things out, the air quality is going to be less than perfect. Community gardens are a great way to incorporate more plants to improve the neighborhood’s air quality.
15. Community gardens can reduce crime.
Believe it or not, having community gardens in open lots, spaces, and fields can deter these spaces from being used for criminal activity. A community that wisely fills open spaces with gardens is a community that can potentially enjoy more safety and lowers crime stats.
16. Provides a good, healthy outdoor activity for everyone.
For some families, it is hard to find an outdoor activity where everybody can be part of, whether it is grandpa or the little ones. Community gardens provide families with an outdoor activity that all can participate in.
What Are You Waiting For? Start Your Community Garden Today
The abovementioned benefits should be enough to get anyone on their feet and ready to start their very own community garden. If you don’t have one in your area, start one…and if you do have one, find out how you can get involved. Happy gardening!